Starting out as an autonomous project for American singer/songwriter JJ, Shattered Destiny took shape as a full-on band last year and here we have their debut offering in the form of EP 'Fragments'. While JJ once found erstwhile fame in an entirely different branch of entertainment, his name is a new one within the metal realm although, based on these four tracks, Shattered Destiny are primed for success all of their own. Evidently out to make an impact from the off, Dark Tranquillity's Martin Brändström recorded the EP and Hammerfall frontman Joacim Cans is credited with a "supervision" role; Pontus Norgren (also Hammerfall) was recruited to mix; the ever reliable, famed metal producer Jens Bogren mastered the whole thing, and DT's Niklas Sundin was responsible for the darky surreal cover art. And parting ways with their drummer just before recording commenced, onetime Fates Warning sticksman Mark Zonder was temporarily brought in as a session player. What a list of metal luminaries! This will be sure to engender significant interest for JJ and co. if nothing else although, in itself, does not a good EP make. Fortunately, the songwriting and performances are of an equally high standard to match the (expectedly) great sounding production.
JJ's songwriting is an amalgam of three distinct metal sub-genres, namely thrash, power and prog. Such a fusion is nothing new - the likes of Pagan's Mind, Communic and Mercenary have been doing it for years - but the way Shattered Destiny have blended said styles sounds particularly fresh, underpinned as it is with a quasi-theatrical vibe. This largely derives from JJ's vocals which he manages to infuse with a discernible element of drama; pertinent, I guess, considering the tracks are bound together by a concept so it actually feels like a story is unfolding through both lyrics and music. There are some occasional dissonant tones in his delivery so we're not talking pitch-perfect singing throughout, although it's that very dissonance that adds to, and engenders, an inherent drama in the songs. It's heartfelt singing; raw and emotional rather than perfunctory and technically proficient. And his throaty delivery is in a similar vein to that of Rage's Peavy and bygone Metal Church frontman Mike Howe - the vocal phrasing on 'Epilogue' is particularly reminiscent of the latter, a track that also pays lyrical tribute to the late, great Chuck Schuldiner in what can be turned into a game of "spot the Death references" if you so wish.
Apart from the singing, from all the other individual performances, Zonder's drumming is quite wonderful and enhances the tracks' prog, thrash and power elements at all the right moments. And Roman Guryev's lead guitar work is simply breathtaking with virtuosic solos and licks throughout. Overall, the combined talents of all personnel involved have succeeded in creating music that is as engaging and exhilarating as it is imaginatively epic. And 'Fragments', as the title suggests, is only select elements from a much wider concept with a planned full-length album set to present the narrative in its entirety early in 2013. As such, Shattered Destiny's debut EP is just a taster for what's to come but, for the time being, offers a sample of what JJ and his fellow musicians are capable of as well as providing a solid foundation upon which they can refine and consolidate all they've achieved in the studio thus far.
Review by Mark Holmes
2) Deceitful Heart
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN:
"...as engaging and exhilarating as it is imaginatively epic."